A calmer life through mindfulness living

March 13, 2023
By Dr Zheng Zhimin, Psychiatrist

Mindfulness is often regarded as a formal meditative practice to calm the mind.

It can seem daunting to many people, as finding time for meditation may seem like an extra chore on our already full to-do list.

When we understand what mindfulness is about, it is actually easier to incorporate it into our daily life than we imagine it to be.

Being mindful brings awareness and intention to our behaviour, thoughts and emotions in the present moment.

Most of us lead busy lives, and often on “auto-pilot”. We hardly give much thought into why we are do what we do and plunge straight in. As a result, we may overstretch our boundaries without realising it and become overly exhausted, both emotionally and physically.

It is also easier for other people to rub us the wrong way, and we may react in rage or frustration that were not intended in the first place. 

Can we be more self-aware and mindful?

The easiest way is to start off the day “listening” to yourself. Ask yourself these few questions when you wake up in the morning: “How am I feeling today? What is my intention for today? What can I do to take care of myself today?”

It is not possible to feel tip-top every morning, and some days are better than others.

By connecting with your feelings and thoughts at the start of the day, you will find yourself being more aware of your needs for the rest of the day and operate within the limits that you are comfortable with.

Checking in with yourself regularly would also help to ensure that you stay connected with the intention set for the day.

Mindfulness can easily be part of daily life

Mindfulness can also be carried out in our daily routine, such as eating. On busy days, we often rush through our meals while being distracted by thoughts of what we have to do. You may even find yourself finishing your food but not remembering how it tasted or whether it was enjoyable. When eating, commit to the experience without multi-tasking.

Mindful eating helps us to regulate our food intake as we become more aware of how hungry we really are.

Take time to savour each mouthful and the taste of the food, while being aware of the physical sensation of satiety.

This prevents over-eating during stress, or under-eating when we are distracted. 

Regulate negative emotions

While mindfulness helps us to be more self-aware, it does not necessarily mean that we would not feel angry or upset. However, it helps us to regulate our emotions more effectively by bringing heightened consciousness to them and the thoughts may be contributory.

For example, you may be feeling particularly irritable during the work commute.

When you sense tension building, take a pause to examine your emotions, physical sensations and thoughts at that moment.

You may realise that what is causing discomfort is not due to the crowded environment or inconsiderate commuters, but because of sensitivity to noise due to poor sleep the night before. Or it could be helpless frustration of getting your kids ready for school before rushing off to work.

Accepting the present discomfort and recognizing the triggers would help you to be more mindful of how you go about the rest of the day, such as choosing to have a quiet lunch alone instead of mingling with colleagues. You may also decide to go to bed earlier and not indulge in screen time in order to catch up on rest.

A calmer and more controlled life

In essence, being cognizant of how we feel, think and act in the present moment keeps us to self-regulate better and engage in behaviours that would truly benefit our sense of well-being.

As we become more mindful of ourselves, the way we interact with other people would also become calmer and more controlled, and we may even find ourselves being able to express our needs more clearly. 

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